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Cathartic Crying

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When the day is saved, you have our permission to cry.

"You go on and cry, sometimes that's best."
Vera Smith, The Dead Zone

Sometimes tears come naturally to people, and sometimes they are Trying Not to Cry. With other people, though, they will actively or unconsciously repress their sadness and/or tears with little effort. This means that they can go a long time without crying.

Until that moment. That one moment where their heart breaks and their walls come crashing down. In that moment, months or even years of repressed tears and sobbing will burst forth like a flash flood.

The term "catharsis" refers to the process of purging the body of repressed emotions. This is largely attributed to (but interestingly not defined by) Aristotle's study of tragedy's effect on the minds of the audience.

The following often happens in an instance of Cathartic Crying:

  1. Repression — Whether for days or even years, repression involves holding in one's tears. If the person is not depressed, they will remain or even try to remain strong for any reason.
  2. The Verge — This is when said person comes very close to crying. However, it can go either way: resuming repression or full-blown crying.
  3. Release — This is what happens when that person decides to let out all of the tears they bottled up for so long. It can vary from intentional or unconscious. The results can be quite messy (in terms of tears, of course).

The crying itself may vary from a fit of uncontrollable sobbing to Ocular Gushers. It can also lead to Inelegant Blubbering. This trope qualifies when a character represses their sadness through either peer pressure or just plain apathetic depression until something moves them to finally let it out. Sometimes rain accompanies their crying bout to drive home the point about the person's tears acting as if a dam had broken inside their soul.

Sometimes a character who feels like they're Unable to Cry finds catharsis and relief in finally letting their sadness out, leading to this trope. May also be a part of the Five Stages of Grief if the other four stages come before depression. These tears will definitely come after Emotion Suppression. Sometimes, a character will receive a Cooldown Hug once they finally let their emotions out.

If the person doing the cathartic crying is happy, Tears of Joy will result. This may also come when someone who's pretending to be happy just can't take it anymore. This trope can also cross over with Berserker Tears if a character has been hiding their anger for a long time.

Can fall under Manly Tears if a character who does this is particularly badass. May coincide with My Eyes Are Leaking if a character hasn't had much experience with crying. The Stoic may do this if they've been hiding their emotions behind stoicism.

Similar to Trying Not to Cry, but the character successfully contains their tears until a cathartic moment. Compare Broken Tears, Crying a River, Cathartic Exhalation, and Inelegant Blubbering. Also compare Anguished Outburst - which is a mix of sadness and anger - and Rage Breaking Point - where a character releases their anger and may feel catharsis from it. Men Don't Cry may be involved. Often Played for Drama, but sometimes can be Played for Laughs. Sub-trope of In-Universe Catharsis. Sister trope of Cathartic Scream and Repression Never Ends Well. Not to be confused with Catharsis Factor, which is a video game trope about violence. It may cross over with Angst Nuke if these tears become especially explosive. Compare Percussive Therapy, which is a more violent form of catharsis for a character.

As there may be climactic, plot-relevant reasons for these kinds of tears, beware of unmarked spoilers.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Beastars: Louis had been emotionally abused by his adoptive father for a decade, and traumatized by having nearly been sold to be eaten in the Black Market, only for said father to nearly have him killed by a different set of carnivores. The number 4 on his foot being a constant reminder of the horrors he went through. Eventually after Legoshi discovers who Tem's killer is, and nearly dying at their hand, Louis offers Legoshi the foot, to get stronger, he agrees, and Louis is left crying not from the physical pain but because he can finally unleash all the sadness that was denied him for so long while claiming that it's the rain.
  • Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE: After Hiroto finishes telling his friends about his Dark and Troubled Past, May kisses him between the eyes before hugging him, telling him to let it all out.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Battle Tendency: Parodied with Eisidisi, who bawls his eyes out after Joseph severs his arm with Hamonnote , both as stress relief and to mess with Joseph. Joseph actually finds this creepier than blind rage.
    • Stone Ocean: After having to witness his friends get killed in front of him and being entrusted to defeat Pucci, when Emporio arrives in the newly-restored world after Pucci's defeat, he releases all his tears when tearfully introducing himself to Jolyne's new self, Irene.
  • Love Live! Sunshine!!: In "Isn't It Frustrating?", Aquors has received zero votes. Not wanting the team's morale to decrease, Chika hides her nervousness and disappointment behind a smile. Later, Riko finds Chika by the sea, still trying not to show how stressed she is. However, Chika's facade starts to slip and she tearfully vents to Riko about her frustration. Riko hugs the sobbing Chika, telling her that it's not good to hold in her feelings.
  • The Stoic and unemotional Hachiman Hikigaya from My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, as I Expected decided to ask help to his Service Club companions Yukino Yukinoshita and Yui Yuigahama. After being rejected his petition by Yukino, he sincered with them wanting something genuine with Yukino and Yui, clearly at the edge of tears. They got touched by the speech but Yukino got shocked and escaped from there, being found later by Yui and both got a cathartic crying together. After that, both girls accepted to help Hachiman.
  • One Piece:
    • At the beginning of the Thriller Bark arc, the Straw Hats meet Brook, who is the only crew member remaining on his broken ship. He mentions how he's so happy he could cry, although he adds that he cannot. At the end of the arc, however, Luffy mentions how Brook's whale friend Laboon is still alive and swimming. Greatly relieved at this news, Brook starts blubbering in a mess of emotion.
    • Happens to Koala as a small child. When she was a slave, she had been conditioned to never show any emotion other than happiness. After she is saved by the Sun Pirates, they show her kindness and friendship and promise to bring her home. This is enough for Koala to give a loud wail as she allows herself to express her other emotions in so long.
    • After Luffy defeats Doflamingo and frees Dressrosa, the entire country roars with joy. Kyros, who had been rendered Unable to Cry for the past ten years due to having been turned into a toy, takes the opportunity to hide somewhere and cry out all those long overdue tears at once.
    • An accidental example. During the Wano arc, Luffy and Kaido go many rounds of fighting. In episode 1064, Kaido is on his last legs and so drinks his booze to boost his strength. What follows is a very inelegant case of sobbing and tears. After a while, he manages to regain his composure and continue fighting.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
  • Ranma ½ has a scene where, after Akane has injured herself, and had a rather unfortunate haircut, she ends up crying in Doctor Tofu's arms. She notes afterward that a good cry helped her feel better about everything that happened.
  • In one of the last episodes of Scryed, Ryuho is shocked to learn that Scheris, who had long harbored a one-sided crush on him, had performed a Heroic Sacrifice to save him. His longtime rival Kazuma offers a suggestion: cry; mourn for her. And so Ryuho spends the next several minutes pouring his heart out in tears.
  • In Spirited Away, Chihiro doesn't cry until the day after losing her parents. Haku gives her something to eat, and as she chews on the food, she begins to sob.
  • Spy X Family: At the end of the Red Circus Arc, just as soon Yor arrives to check if Anya is injured, Anya states she wasn't hurt until tears start coming out of her to prompt immediate sobbing once she hugs Yor.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann; In the manga adaptation, when Kiyal reunites with Kiyoh and Kinon after the final battle, she does a V-Sign with a smile before her tears start coming loose and cries loudly after telling them of Kittan's Heroic Sacrifice.
  • In Osamu Tezuka's Unico, the titular unicorn befriends a cute black and white cat named Chao/Katy (renamed "Chloe" in Unico: Awakening) after accidentally falling into her basket floating down a river. While Katy remains optimistic, Unico asks her if she has ever been abandoned before. Katy responds by telling him "No" before suddenly getting choked up to the concern of Unico. She then runs up to hug him as she's telling him that she did get abandoned while crying loudly as Unico comforts her.

    Comic Books 
  • The Magicians: Alice's Story reveals that Quentin's stay in New York was hurting Alice a lot more than she was letting on in the original novel: having seen her parents descend into lives without purpose, she'd earlier made Quentin promise that neither of them would end up so miserable... only for Quentin to waste his magic on pointless hedonism. After spending this period hiding her feelings on the matter, Alice eventually gives up on her relationship and calls a cab to take her to the airport - only to find herself reunited with the mysterious driver who helped her get to Brakebills at the start of the comic. The driver asks her if she's okay... whereupon Alice finally breaks down in tears in the back of the cab and gives vent to all her frustrations.
  • Wonder Woman: Black and Gold: Cathy Perkins, who Diana has been friends with since she was a teenage runaway, has been fighting the fact that she's dying of untreatable lung cancer. When Diana talks her into accepting her death, and Cathy breaks the magic talisman that has been extending her life since it endangers those around her and was depowering Diana she cries while leaning on her lifelong friend as she accepts her impending demise.

    Fan Works 
  • The Apprentice, the Student, and the Charlatan:
    • Early in the fic, Trixie suffers a complete breakdown from a lack of sleep due to nightmares mid-performance as she is heckled and unable to perform basic tricks, leading her to run away and just collapse into a fit of tears at the state her life is in. Eventually she gets it together and, with some help from the voice in her head, decides to go to Ponyville to ask for Twilight Sparkle's help in solving her current predicament.
    • Nova Shine is put through an emotional wringer in Chapter 7, where he is finally able to let go of his grudge with someone who wronged him earlier in his life, but when he tries to let go of his grudge with his parents, he is unable to do so and under the weight of his failure, he breaks down in Twilight Sparkle's hooves once he makes it back to her parents' place.
  • Junior Officers:
    Margaret's narration: I laid face-first on my bed and just cried. Everything I'd been holding back for years had just come spilling out all over the table, garnished with venom.
  • In The Loud House fanfic Cleansing, Luan's been feeling very gloomy for several reasons; she's done badly at a kid's birthday party, she's been told her braces have to stay on even longer, and winter break has just ended. When she writes a story about her in-universe Author Avatar named Cathy who is bullied for not being funny enough, she breaks down in ugly tears for a good long while to the point where her pillow is completely drenched, but she feels better now that she's gotten it all out. Luan decides to make this a ritual; whenever she's especially stressed, she'll just cry it all out for a half-hour.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • jkbrony's fanfic "Let Me Cry" focuses on the aftermath of the Season 5 episode "Amending Fences". Twilight Sparkle, still reeling from the guilt of her treatment of her Canterlot friends, chastises herself for her past actions and believes that she doesn't deserve being the Princess of Friendship. Spike tries to calm her down and keep her from crying, but she tells Spike that she needs to let it all out. Spike finally relents and holds her as she cries without restraint for a few hours.
    • KidatHeart5's fanfic "My Little Maleficent" sees Discord in the role of the eponymous dark fairy. When his lover Fluttershy is taken away by Shining Armor, Discord finds that he has also been robbed of his powers of flight and teleportation. The double-loss causes him to weep before he gathers himself and eventually curses Shining Armor's baby Twilight Sparkle to fall victim to a "sleeplike sleep". Years after the christening, Discord becomes fond of the princess as they spend time together in the forest. However, the curse still takes ahold of Twilight. Discord tries to use a stallion she had recently met to break the curse, but to no avail. Discord then confesses to the sleeping Twilight that he feels guilty not just over the curse, but also that he couldn't save Fluttershy years back. Having his heart broken twice now, Discord sobs into the princess's pillow before kissing her on the forehead and unexpectedly waking her.
      Discord buried his face in Twilight’s pillow and let out the sobs he had kept in not only now, but also when Fluttershy was gone.
  • In Returning the Stones, Captain America has a major one when returning the Soul Stone, realizing his Pride in being seen as A True Hero has turned him into a Martyr Without a Cause.

    Films - Animated 
  • Big Hero 6: Throughout much of the movie, Hiro tries to avoid feeling pain over Tadashi's death, though deep down, he is distraught. When he tries to force open Baymax's access port to take out his healing chip, Baymax asks him if Tadashi would have wanted him to kill Callaghan. Hiro screams that Tadashi's gone and begins to sob quietly, facing the fact that he really is devastated. Then he gets a Tearful Smile once Baymax shows him videos of Tadashi that he's saved. He then calms down.
  • Cinderella: Implied with Cinderella. Despite all the trouble her stepfamily gives her, she manages to keep her cool in the face of humiliation and despair (although she does tend to get frustrated from time to time). It comes to a head when the stepsisters rip her dress to shreds so she can't go to the ball. After her stepfamily leaves, Cinderella runs to the garden and weeps under the willow tree. When living in an abusive household, there's only just so much a person can take.
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2: When Earl sees the paradise made from the FLDSMDFR, he sheds a Single Tear of joy, but he sucks it right back into himself. Later, after Chester V has been stopped and the Foodimals are free, he decides to let his tears out. One of his tears lands on a sentient blueberry, causing it to grow chest hair and cheer.
  • Inside Out: The climax of the film sees Sadness finally handling Riley's emotions so that Riley can finally let herself cry to her parents about how upset she is about moving away. This conveys the film's moral about how letting yourself be sad is more helpful than bottling up your feelings because it allows others to recognize when you need help.
  • My Neighbor Totoro: After receiving the call that their mother's visit will be delayed, Satsuki tries her hardest to be mature about it (though she does snap at Mei when the latter doesn't take it well), but later breaks down in tears when she tells Granny Ogaki about it.
  • The Polar Express: The Conductor initially laughs when the train reaches the North Pole in time despite delays and a few close calls. But this soon turns into briefly crying in relief for a bit before he composes himself.
  • The Rescuers: During her captivity at Devil’s Bayou, Penny is implied to be projecting her fears and sorrows into her teddy bear so she could stay strong and defiant towards her captors. However, just before Bernard and Bianca show themselves to her, Penny bursts into tears while comforting Teddy.
  • Song of the Sea: Macha has a habit of stealing others' emotions so there can be no more suffering. She also does this to herself to avoid feeling any pain over turning her son to stone to stop him from flooding the world with his tears. When Saoirse plays the selkie song to break the jars containing Macha's emotions, Macha becomes overwhelmed by her emotions returning and eventually collapses in tears over the incident with Mac Lir.
  • In Turning Red, Mei initially puts on a brave face in telling her friends about her giant red panda form. This facade then breaks down and she starts crying about it.

    Films - Live-Action 
  • A Monster Calls: Young Conor O'Malley suffers emotional turmoil when his mother becomes terminally ill. He continually lashes out at his family and friends in his grief, even ripping off a branch from the monster's foot in a desperate attempt to heal his mother. When the monster reveals that he only came to heal Conor, Conor tries to explain that his mother needs healing more than he does before letting out a Cathartic Scream. He then collapses on the ground and breaks down sobbing.
  • Andrei Rublev: The entire family of a young boy, Boriska, including his father, a master bellmaker, has died from plague. Desperate to survive, he tells that he is the only one his father taught his professional secret, and gets hired to cast a huge new church bell, which is a costly process that involves hundreds of people. After the completed bell rings perfectly and the crowd rejoices, the protagonist, Andrei finds Boriska, who has previously acted so confident, loudly sobbing on the ground in relief like a little child, because his father did not tell him any secrets and he knew that should he fail, the grand prince will have him executed. Andrei then breaks his vow of silence to comfort the boy and decides to start painting again to bring joy and beauty into the world like Boriska did by creating the bell.
  • Blue Beetle (2023): When Alberto dies, the Reyes family is breaking down, but Nana rallies them by saying that they don't have time to cry now when Jaime needs rescuing. After the climax and when they're safe and reunited in the Bug, she says that "now is the time to cry", and the whole family (and Jenny) hugs and finally cries over Alberto's death.
  • Boogie Nights: During her visitation hearing, Amber Waves tries to deny her drug problems, but then admits she's been arrested when the judge straight-up asks, "When was the last time you were arrested, and what was the charge?" We next see Amber outside the courthouse, a sobbing mess; presumably her quest for access to her son went badly.
  • Good Will Hunting: Having suffered abuse as a child, the titular character has learned to effectively suppress and cover up his true emotions. In the end, he finally allows himself to open up and breaks into tears when the psychiatrist makes him realize it was not his fault.
  • In Ingmar Bergman's film version of The Magic Flute, Tamino behaves as The Stoic throughout his initiation trials, resists every temptation to go astray, and staunchly keeps his vow of silence even as his beloved Pamina wrongly thinks he's rejecting her. But as soon as Pamina leaves the room after her anguished aria, he buries his face in his hands and gives way to soft, despondent sobs. Some stage productions of the opera have him do this too: in the filmed performances from Sydney and Drottningholm staged by Bergman's fellow Swede Göran Järvefelt, he breaks down in full-blown Inelegant Blubbering!
  • In the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, Elinor Dashwood has been hiding her heartbreak over discovering that Edward Ferrars, her love interest who has been responding in kind, is engaged and romantically unavailable to her. She has put on a brave front for most of the film and only allowed herself to weep for her ill sister Marianne, not for herself. Toward the end of the film, she hears the news that Mr. Ferrars has been married. Edward then visits and reveals that it was actually his brother who was married and that he (Edward) is now free from his engagement, at which she bursts into a flood of tears. Her mother and sisters promptly leave the room as Edward finally professes his love for her.

  • The novelization of Annie (1982) adds this to the scene where Annie admits to Warbucks that deep down she's always known her parents were dead, making the moment more emotional than it is either in the film or onstage. Until this point, the book emphasizes that Plucky Girl Annie never cries, but after her confession to Warbucks, she finally breaks down sobbing in his arms, and afterwards she feels better.
  • The Babysitters Club: In "Claudia and the Sad Goodbye", after Claudia's grandmother Mimi dies, Claudia doesn't yet feel the urge to cry and is confused with herself. She doesn't know how to get through this and isn't sure if she should mourn or just remember all the good times. She eventually breaks down sobbing and only then is she able to start moving on.
  • In the Book of Genesis, after twenty years of estrangement, Joseph cries uncontrollably at the moment of his reconciliation with his brothers.
  • Crest of the Stars: Lafiel is not allowed to cry as the heir to the Jade Throne because if a ruler cries for one person, it'll be seen as favoritism. As such, Lafiel decides not to cry in the vicinity of her crew after she has no choice but to make them leave Jinto behind. When she does see Jinto again, however, she finally gets to cry out of relief.
  • Digging to Australia: Thirteen-year-old Jennifer had believed her birthday to be in June, then suddenly her grandparents reveal to her that it's in November. When she asks why, they tell her that her estranged mother's birthday was in June, but they had decided to keep the occasion to make things "easier". Jennifer storms to her bedroom and has a huge crying fit, crying like she has never cried before.
  • Franklin: In "Franklin Goes to the Hospital", Franklin's shell has sustained a tiny crack thanks to a soccer ball bouncing against it and Franklin has to get an operation. Everyone praises him for supposedly being brave, but when Dr. Bear tells him he's going to get an X-ray, Franklin breaks down crying and admits that he's been trying to hide how afraid he is the whole time.
  • Green Angel: After losing her family in a major catastrophe, Green grieves by drinking alcohol and changing her appearance and name. The book reveals that she doesn't cry for her loss because doing so would be an admission that her family is not coming back. It isn't until she gets a dream about her sister Aurora comforting her that she cries "like the rain" and the tears wash away the embers that had gotten in her eyes.
  • The Hidden Dungeon Only I Can Enter: The series begins when Noir enters the titular "hidden dungeon" and meets Olivia Servant, who is currently imprisoned by magical chains. Taking an interest in the novice adventurer, Olivia transfers her three most powerful skills and begins mentoring him. As Noir grows in prestige (and girlfriends), he realizes that he owes all of his success to "Master" and declares that he will set her free, no matter the cost. This takes him through several harrowing ordeals, including fighting an Evil Doppelgänger of Olivia herself, as it's revealed that draining Olivia's life energy to make the clone was the purpose of the magic chains, and thus Olivia has been suffering for centuries. After she's finally free, Olivia and Noir finally meet face-to-face. Noir's eyes begin watering up, and Olivia just smiles and opens her arms, allowing Noir to embrace her and finally release the tears he'd been holding back. Noir cries his heart out, relieved that he finally managed to free her and also upset to know that she was in terrible pain the entire time, but never once let on so that he wouldn't feel compelled to risk his life for her.
  • At the beginning of Les Misérables, Jean Valjean has been hardened by prison and hasn't shed a tear in nineteen years. But when the Bishop of Digne shows him mercy when he least deserves it and urges him to become an honest man, his inner turmoil plunges him into a Heroic BSoD, during which he half-consciously robs a child of a forty-sous coin. When he finally snaps out of his reverie and realizes what he's done, he searches desperately for the boy to give him back his money, and when he fails to find him, he collapses in agonized Tears of Remorse. This cathartic crying marks the beginning of his Heel–Face Turn into the novel's noble hero.
  • The Little Mermaid: A unique example. It is said that mermaids cannot cry, which means that they can't let out their emotions healthily when some tragedy happens. At the end, when the eponymous mermaid becomes an angel after she gives up her own life instead of killing the prince after he has left her for another woman, she sheds tears for the very first time.
  • Marcys Journal A Guide To Amphibia: Both Marcy and Anne go through this:
    • Marcy spends the first section of her journal pushing back thoughts of her family's plans to move. During the infamous Flipwart game, Andrias's question about her friends and family causes her to burst into tears abruptly and confess everything to him. She later notes that she had been "bottling up a lot of heavy stuff" and makes it a point to not do it again.
    • While Anne may seem like she's largely okay for most of Season 3a, the book explains that she was actually repressing the trauma of everything that happened in Amphibia and the thought that her friends might be dead. She resolves to stay strong so she won't scare her family. It eventually gets to the point where she suffers a breakdown during the events of "Escape to Amphibia".
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic book "Discord and the Ponyville Players Dramarama" concerns the titular draconequus participating in a Ponyville play to get a prized token back from Princess Celestia. Due to his past actions and his secret motive, the ponies performing alongside him are distrustful of him, causing him to feel a little hurt about it. When Discord messes up the production with his antics one too many times, Twilight Sparkle kicks him out of the theater. When the Mane Six check up on him later that day, Discord starts bawling as he confesses his mission to the girls.
  • Ramona Quimby: In Ramona the Brave, Ramona is having a deeply stressful time in first grade because her teacher doesn't like her. She feels better after having an outburst in front of her family and confessing that she thinks her parents love her older sister Beezus more.
    Crying had left Ramona tired and limp, but somehow she felt better, more at peace with herself, as if trouble and guilt had been washed away by tears.
  • Teardrop: Eureka Boudreaux is prophesied to have her tears bring back Atlantis from its watery prison. Therefore, she must remain stoic regardless of the heartbreaking misfortunes that happen to her. Since she was nine when she last cried, she's got years and years of repressed tears. Unfortunately, her emotions are personified through the rain that happens every time she gets close to crying. The breaking point comes when she thinks about the torture Brooks is enduring under Atlas' Mind Control. Broken Tears and supernatural flooding ensue.
  • Even when she cried before, Taiga Aisaka from Toradora! made this once when finally realized she loved Ryuuji Takasu. On Christmas Eve, she was waiting for Santa but instead she received the visit of a giant teddy bear who made her happy and gave her a present. Then she knew Ryuuji was behind the teddy bear all the time and thanked him for the surprise but cheered him up to declare to her friend Minori Kushieda. After Ryuuji left, she realized she really loved him and went after him crying and trying to come back to her but unsuccessfully and finally Taige left crying cathartically alone in the street.
  • Why Did Grandpa Die?: When Molly's grandfather dies of illness, she doesn't feel like crying and is just feeling a mix of confusion and anger about the fact that they never got to go to the lake like he had promised. When the weight of the situation finally hits her and she realizes she will never see him again, she breaks down in tears and begins to come to terms with it. Her mother even tells her that shedding tears can help someone feel better.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Archie Bunker's Place has the irascible Archie Bunker lose his wife Edith to phlebitis. Archie goes through the funeral with Men Don't Cry stoicism, but later, in their bedroom, he conducts a soliloquy with one of Edith's slippers. It is then that Archie's armor, tough enough to withstand anything a harsh, gritty New York could throw at it, begins to crack. Archie is in tears at the end:
    Archie: Y' had no right to leave me that way, Edith, without givin' me just one more chance to say I love you.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In the Season 1 finale "Prophecy Girl", Buffy is briefly killed by the Master before being revived by Xander. After stopping the Master and his horde of vampires, she spends the summer in Los Angeles and comes back behaving callous and standoffish. Throughout the episode, the viewer learns that Buffy is going through PTSD from her near-death experience, which isn't helped by recurring dreams about the Master's hench-vamps trying to revive him. When the Scoobies learn that the Master's bones have been dug up for resurrection, Buffy smashes the bones to dust before collapsing in tears, finally coming to terms with the events of the previous season.
    • Towards the end of Season 5, Buffy and Dawn's mother Joyce suddenly dies of an aneurysm. The following episode "Forever" sees Buffy try to keep it together for her sister's sake and also to retain some sort of normality. Meanwhile, Dawn enlists Spike's help to raise her mother from the dead. Once Buffy learns that Dawn has cast a dark spell, she confronts her. Likewise, Dawn calls her out on being absent and distant most of the time. Buffy tearfully confesses that she's doing it to be strong and that she's actually helpless without their mom. When the person they assume is a resurrected Joyce knocks on their door, Buffy rushes to answer it while Dawn - having been told that there's a chance Joyce could come back wrong - breaks the spell and sends Joyce back to the grave. Once Buffy opens the door to see no one, she collapses into her sister's arms as she sobs without restraint.
  • Doc Martin: Dr. Martin Ellingham is a socially-inept and emotionally-repressed GP who can be quite unfriendly most of the time. His behavior causes tension in his relationship with his wife Louisa, which comes to a head in the Series 6 finale. After a falling-out with Martin, Louisa takes their baby son and leaves for the airport to go to Spain. Martin, though initially understanding of her choice, soon sees a deadly aneurysm in his wife's brain scan (which she got after her accident with a vehicle). He schedules an operation with the Wadebridge hospital and chases Louisa down to tell her before the airplane takes off. When they arrive at the hospital, Martin performs the surgery, thankfully saving her life. Afterwards, he goes into a bathroom stall to be alone for a minute or two. Though he retains a mostly-stoic face, he sheds tears of (possibly) relief. This is a poignant moment because before this moment, Martin had never wept (as far as the audience knows), not even when his Auntie Joan died. It's also worth noting that he had been in despair over Louisa's departure and had to push his feelings aside to a. do his job, and b. save Louisa from dying on the plane.
  • Doom Patrol (2019): Discussed by Cliff in one episode. When he has a mental breakdown over his past, he tells his teammates how he wants to cry but can't because he's a Man in the Machine.
  • Aeryn Sun of Farscape isn't prone to crying often (especially during the first season), being born and raised among the ruthlessly militaristic Peacekeepers. This changes quite dramatically in the early season 2 episode "The Way We Weren't" when she is found to have been a member of the firing squad that executed Moya's previous Pilot; when confronted over the issue, she is visibly suppressing her tears throughout the ensuing argument. Later, she privately tries to calm down by assaulting her punching bag for a while, only to find herself flashing back to the execution and hearing the Pilot screaming in agony, driving Aeryn to assault the punching bag in such a frenzy that she ends up with bloody knuckles. Finally, she collapses and breaks down sobbing in remorse.
  • The Frasier episode "Good Grief" has Frasier losing his job at the radio station. Thus, he goes through the five stages of grief. When he hits Depression, he gains weight and doesn't confront his own feelings until Niles pushes him.
    Niles: Frasier...You're not famous anymore.
    Frasier: *bawls*
  • In House of Cards (UK), Prime Minister Henry Collingridge spends roughly half of the first season being humiliated in a cascade of scandals orchestrated by Francis Urquhart; as a professional politician, of course, Henry is careful to hide the full extent of his misery. In the end, the accusation of insider dealing in collusion with his brother Charles is enough to force the PM to resign - but even after being humiliated again when Urquhart leaks the news to the media ahead of the attempted dignified exit, Henry manages to hold back the waterworks... right up until he's alone with Charles, whereupon he finally breaks down in tears and admits "I'm just so glad I don't have to fight those bastards anymore."
  • Played for Laughs in The Munsters. Herman joins a baseball team for a short time before he's kicked out. His family comforts him, but it's Lily's words that move him to tears. As he cries steady streams of tears, he tells her that he hasn't cried like this in particular since they cancelled his favorite show.
    Herman: Now look what you've gone and made me do. I-I haven't cried like this since they cancelled Kukla, Fran, and Ollie.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Picard visits his brother Robert after being victimized by the Borg in the episode "Family". Robert antagonizes him to invoke this as Picard hasn't come to grips with his Mind Rape by the Borg.
    Jean-Luc: You don't know, Robert, you don't know. They took everything I was. They used me to kill and to destroy, and I couldn't stop them! I should have been able to stop them! I tried. I tried so hard. But I wasn't strong enough! I wasn't good enough! I should have been able to stop them. I should, I should... (trails off sobbing)
    Robert: So, my brother is a human being after all.
  • WandaVision: Implied to be this with Wanda. Episode 8 explores how the Hex came to be when Agatha takes Wanda back to the earlier traumas of her life: her parents dying while the family was watching The Dick Van Dyke Show, being the subject of an Infinity Stone experiment, the death of her brother, and Vision's death and subsequent dismantling. Things come to a head when, after Hayward refuses to turn over Vision's remains to her for burial, Wanda drives to Westview to see the lot Vision bought before he died, where he intended to settle down and build a house with her. When she finally lets out years of grief through sobbing, her emotion-fueled magic is so great that she creates the Hex as well as a facsimile of Vision.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Barbarian and the Troll: In the episode "When Dragons Cry", the gang has to obtain dragon tears to upgrade Axe. Unfortunately for them, the dragon refuses to cry. He also adds that he hasn't cried in eons. Near the end of the episode, the dragon has tied up the gang and is about to eat them. The friends' farewells and Brendar's confession about her lonely life cause the dragon to weep.
    The dragon: I miss my grandma! (sobbing)

    Video Games 
  • AI: The Somnium Files: In Mizuki's route in the first game, she breaks down next to Date as all of the trauma and frustration of her childhood and the her parents' deaths comes crashing down on her, and she spends minutes just crying onto his shoulder. She does so in the true route as well, but this time it's with Hitomi, and without having found out her father's been killed too.
  • Grandia: When Sue is bidding her farewells to Feena and Justin, she keeps herself under control. That is, until Feena points out that Sue is heartbroken on the inside and has been planning on crying after she leaves them. Sue admits that this is true and sobs in Feena's arms.
  • Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil: Before Klonoa leaves Lunatea, Lolo starts shedding tears while asking Klonoa if it's okay to cry. Once she runs up to hug him, she starts audibly crying in sadness knowing she won't see Klonoa again.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II: Rean does this while Towa tells him that it's okay to let it out and not to get so worked up about not keeping his promise (while trying to suppress tears herself), lamenting over the fact that he wasn't able to bring Crow back to make him graduate with his class.
  • Mass Effect 2:
    • During a visit to Illium, Shepard is called upon by the surviving colonists from Feros to help them with a rather dodgy medical contract. The company representative handling said contract is an extremely xenophobic Asari by the name of Erinya, who is convinced that no other species in the galaxy should be allowed to have influence. However, it soon becomes clear that her Fantastic Racism is motivated by grief, and she's using her anger to disguise just how miserable she is: her bondmate was killed in the Geth uprising, both her daughters were killed in Saren's attack on the Citadel, and she's facing discrimination from her fellow Asari for being a "pureblood." Throughout this reveal, Erinya is barely holding back her tears, and actually goes so far as to hide her face so that Shepard won't see how upset she is; however, when she admits that her bondmate and daughters embraced aliens from all cultures, Shepard asks, "Do you really think they'd want you to do this?" Erinya finally collapses in tears and has to be helped to her feet by Shepard.
    • Since being reintroduced, Liara T'Soni has been keeping her emotions under wraps, remaining subdued even when she sees Shepard alive again. It soon becomes clear that she's out for revenge against the Shadow Broker for trying to sell Shepard's body to the Collectors, and has reinvented herself as a cold-blooded professional to that end. However, in the Lair Of The Shadow Broker DLC, she's finally able to succeed in her goals and assume control of her slain opponent's resources to become the new Shadow Broker; however, the impact of everything she's had to do for the last two years begins to catch up with her, and soon she's in tears - requiring a Cooldown Hug from Shepard.
  • Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon: After the Dark Matter has been destroyed, the Partner breaks down in Tears of Joy. Ampharos notes that they probably had to hold in their emotions for a long time and says they can take all the time they need to get it all out.
  • During the mission "Cabin Fever" in The Secret World, you meet Rada Nastase, a Morninglight VIP trapped in a skiing lodge by the vampire army amassing in the Carpathians. Despite the dire circumstances, Rada is ordered to play the part of a bubbly socialite when you stop by, to the point that her "handler" goes so far as to threaten her with a knife just to drive the point home. For a time, she does her best to keep up the façade by dancing with you, pretending to be fully devoted to the Morninglight cause and the imminent awakening of the Dreamers. However, as this scene continues, Rada's exterior begins to crack under the strain: she admits "these people aren't my friends" and that her parents forced her to join the cult, eventually confessing just how frightened she really is; by the end, she's audibly crying.
  • Heather in Silent Hill 3 has little time to mourn the death of her father, Harry due to Claudia trying to bring her cult's god to the world. Once Heather kills the god, she collapses to the floor and cries, finally being able to let out her emotions and grieve over Harry.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2006): Princess Elise was told not to cry as a child because crying would release the Flames of Disaster known as Iblis. In the Last Story, however, when Sonic was seemingly killed in front of her by Mephiles, she cries for the first time, releasing Iblis and cause Mephiles to merge with Iblis becoming Solaris.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Super Mario RPG: When meeting Mallow, he starts crying over being mugged, which causes a downpour over the Mushroom Kingdom. He gets up after he's done (which stops the rain altogether), feeling relieved after letting out his emotions.
    Mallow: Ah. There's nothing like a good cry.
    Luigi: ...hohohohoho... Hohohoho... Oohoho, Ahahahahaha... OOHAHAHAHAHA, AHAHAHAHAHAH! Ohohohohoho, oh, Mario...
  • World's End Club: Jennu blames Niyan for her sister's death because he invited her to Kyoto, where the earthquake that killed her occurred. Despite this, she doesn't hesitate to save his life, and Pochi uses this event to point out that deep down Jennu is just running from her grief, and encourages her to cry her heart out, which she does.

    Web Animation 
  • Emirichu: In "Crying", this trope is discussed when Emily says that she finds it therapeutic to cry when she's overcome by stress, citing the time she was overwhelmed by her workload in college as an example. She says that it's a healthy way to deal with one's negative emotions.

    Web Comics 
  • The Boy Who Fell: Ren goes to confess to Quartz and Saffron's parents that he killed Quartz and Lord Devil had replaced him with a copy to negotiate with Saff. However, as he confesses, the rock demons reveal they knew already knew and explain they forgive Ren, as they were aware of the nature of the tournament and had accepted that their sons might not return. They then point out Ren is just as much a victim of Lord Devil's schemes and Saff's mom gives the boy a hug, causing him to burst into tears.
  • El Goonish Shive: Nanase confronting her shared trauma with Susan during Reflections. Turns out Nanase had a lot of unresolved guilt over "making" Susan kill the vampire instead of doing it herself.
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: The earliest chapters see Antimony display little to no emotion, especially after the death of her mother. In Chapter 6, however, Annie and Kat explore a mysterious room with a tree growing red berries. They eat the berries and become very intoxicated by the time the gardener arrives. The girls crack jokes about getting caught before Antimony breaks down while laughing. After the weirded-out gardener leaves, Annie confesses that she misses her mother and that she could do nothing for her. One of the author’s comments for this chapter supports this trope, saying, “It’s about time, Annie.”
  • In Megan Kearney's Beauty and the Beast, when the Beast/Argus finally becomes human again and is freed from his magical enslavement by the castle, he breaks down sobbing with Tears of Joy into Beauty's chest, apparently his first tears in centuries.
  • Thinking Too Much to Think Positively: Happens to Xan in "Happy With Sadness" after years of more-or-less repressing her emotions due to growing up feeling disconnected from herself.

    Western Animation 
  • Half of the plot of the episode "Every Which Way But Lose" of American Dad! is focused on this trope. Stan, being a He-Man Woman Hater who considers crying to be for the weak and hates showing any weakness, attempts to kill himself after his football team loses to Steve's as part of a gambit to make him cry, unable to live with a single bit of failure. Steve convinces Stan to accept extreme loss by crying and moving on, and Stan finally breaks down and cries, feeling an overwhelming sense of relief when he does so.
    Steve Smith: So you lost, who cares? I lose all the time and I'm not suicidal. I just cry and get over it. That's what life is, Dad. Losing and crying.
  • Amphibia: King Andrias - The Dragon to the Big Bad of the series - had experienced a traumatic falling-out with his friends in his youth. When Leif saw a vision prophesying Amphibia's doom and was ignored, Andrias chose to keep up his family's conquering legacy over the safety of Amphibia. This led her to steal the Leviathans' means of teleportation and unknowingly shame her friend in his father's eyes. During Andrias's one-on-one duel with Anne, she surmises that the trauma of the betrayal caused him to shut himself off from the world and bury his feelings for a thousand years. When Anne is down and out, Sprig arrives to give Andrias the letter Leif left in the Plantar family tunnels. After learning that she still cared for him despite the rift in their relationship, Andrias has a Heel Realization and bursts into tears. He is unable to stop and resume fighting Anne until his master tries to control him into fighting again.
    King Andrias: All this time, I thought you had forgotten I tried to forget you. (tearing up) My dear friend. (falls to his knees sobbing) But you're too late. The things I've done, the pain I've caused! THERE'S NO GOING BACK!
  • Care Bears in the Land Without Feelings: In the eponymous Land Without Feelings, the sentient plants and rocks are incapable of feeling anything besides grumpiness. After the Care Bears bring feelings back to the land, one of the trees starts crying, presumably because he hasn't felt anything else in a long time (if ever).
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: In "The Tower of Dr. Zalost", Dr. Zalost's sidekick Rat is just grumpy and annoyed throughout most of the episode. Right after he's hit with a joy-infused cannonball, he turns into a baby and starts wailing. It's implied that this is symbolic of him releasing his bottled-up emotions that he'd been hiding behind a grouchy facade.
  • Dragon Tales: In "Feliz Cumpleaños, Enrique", Enrique's rather sad on his birthday since he misses some of the traditions he had back in Colombia. He talks to Quetzal about this, and Quetzal tells him that crying might be a good way to let his feelings out. Enrique's initially unsure since he's been told that Men Don't Cry, but Quetzal tells him that it is okay to cry. Enrique then silently weeps in Quetzal's arms.
  • Fuelled: After spending an unknown amount of time trying to catch her husband's killer to contain her grief, Cathy finally has a starts to realise what she has become, remembers her husband up to his final moments, and breaks down into tears.
  • The Loud House:
    • Lori does this in "City Slickers," after her first day exploring the city turns into a disaster. Bobby lets her cry it out a bit before consoling her.
    • Also occurs in The Casagrandes episode "Stress Test," when Bobby returns to his family hysterically weeping after failing his Achievement Test of Destiny for the fourth time.
  • Throughout The Midnight Gospel, Clancy has been doing his best to hold back tears of any kind, and as part of his Manchild persona, often seems to shy away from situations that might leave him emotionally vulnerable. However, in the final episode of the series, he meets his mother in the universe simulator and they share a heart-to-heart in which they discuss the fact that she's suffering from metastatic breast cancer, fully expecting to die soon. In the end, Clancy finally asks this question:
    Clancy: There's no way to stop the heartbreak. How do you... what do you do about that?
    Clancy's mother: You cry. You cry.
    [Cut to an exterior shot of the room as Clancy breaks down in tears]
  • The Miscellaneous Disney Shorts short film "The Ballad of Nessie" has the main character being told not to cry by various creatures while trying to find herself and her rubber duck a new home. When she's exhausted from the long journey, she takes a moment to put a flower from her home on her toy to reflect on what she's lost and the adage she learned. However, when the flower gets blown away by the wind, Nessie finally caves in to her sorrow and literally cries a river for weeks. To her surprise, she discovers that a lake has formed from her tears.
  • Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends: In the episode "Cry Buggie", Dragon tells Squirt that "big bugs don't cry". After injuring his leg, Squirt tries to follow Dragon's advice until his parents comfort him and use a raincloud to make a point about how it's okay to cry. As Squirt finally lets it out, the cloudburst rains on the soccerberry tournament below. The disappointment of the game's subsequent cancellation convinces Dragon to cry and learn the lesson as well. As a bonus, the rainbow from the storm reflects the happiness Squirt feels after his crying bout.
  • Muppet Babies (2018): In "Rowlf Gets the Blues", Rowlf is gloomy because his mother is going on a trip for a week. He briefly tears up at the beginning, but he stops himself and hides his feelings behind a smile so that he can be strong for his mother's sake. This causes him to turn blue. The more he tries to pretend to be happy, the bluer his fur gets. After several failed attempts to become brown again, Rowlf finally breaks down in tears and admits he really is distraught. He becomes less blue and begins to feel better.
  • My Big, Big Friend: In "Holding It In", Yuri scrapes his knee pretty bad, but he decides that he'd rather not cry because he thinks Men Don't Cry. He ends up with a Balloon Belly from holding back his tears and the waterpark he and his friends are in has no water as a result of him not crying. His friends spend most of the episode trying to get him to let his feelings out, but each attempt is unsuccessful. Golias tearfully tells Yuri that if he's too old to cry, then he's too old for Golias to hug him and that finally gets Yuri's waterworks going. The waterpark's water comes back just then.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Amending Fences", Moondancer is still holding a grudge over Twilight neglecting to come to her party, and she's become a loner so that she'll Never Be Hurt Again. She keeps turning down Twilight's attempts to make things right with her. When Twilight lures her to a party, the emotional agony Moondancer has felt over Twilight leaving Canterlot without saying goodbye comes roaring out in a furious, devastated rant about how she put herself out there in vain, and it all culminates in her sobbing in rage.
    • In the episode "Tanks for the Memories", Rainbow Dash grieves for her pet tortoise Tank when he has to hibernate. When she's in the depression stage, she's just lethargic and disinterested... until Fluttershy hits her with the hard truth: her "winter is going to be... petless". Cue Ocular Gushers from Rainbow Dash. True, the cyan Pegasus had shed a few tears on occasion, but "Tanks for the Memories" really tears down her tear dams!
  • The series premiere of Oddballs sees Max have a flashback of his infanthood when the scientists who created him wanted to test him with electrocution. He further implies their cold treatment by stating that children should be watched 24/7, put through "rigorous and often painful tests", and referred to by a number instead of a name. When Max gets wounded by the smart toaster he and James were trying to raise, James gives him a hug, which he states is something Max's father never gave him. Max then gives out a long wail with tears in his eyes as he returns the embrace.
  • The Owl House:
    • Eda Clawthorne is a very thick-skinned woman who controls her emotions likely due to the curse flaring up from stress. Cue the episode "Eda's Requiem", when she's pushed to her emotional limits. First, Eda finds out that King wants to "le-", making her think that he's leaving after he finds his father. Then, after reuniting with Raine and joining them in their rebellion, she loses them to the coven heads hunting the pair. Before she returns to the race Luz and King are participating in, she actively holds back her tears to not raise suspicion and concern. After King reveals that he wants to legally change his last name to Clawthorne, Eda's Tears of Joy allow her to let out her emotions.
    • Having grown up in the palace with Emperor Belos, Hunter didn't have much interaction with the other scouts of the Emperor's Coven, wasn't free to pursue his interests, and received harsh authoritarian discipline from Belos. He only tears up on a few occasions before the first special "Thanks to Them", in which Luz and Hunter investigate the basement of the old house for any sign of Belos's presence. After they find a stray possum in a wardrobe, Hunter tells Luz that he just wants everyone to be safe. Luz then mentions that she wants him to be safe, too, because she considers him family. Moved by her words, he begins to cry softly before full-on sobbing.
    • During the events of "For the Future", Willow tries to be strong for her friends, but her plant magic soon spirals out of control due to her repression. Just as she is encased in vines as a result of her caving in to her doubt, Hunter rescues her and he and Gus convince her to let out her emotions. Willow then breaks down and sobs that she misses her dads.
  • Rugrats:
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Hordak spent the entire Season 4 depressed and brokenhearted because he thinks that Entrapta has abandoned him for the other princesses. Then he is blackmailed by Catra into resume the war; the humiliation, however, presents itself as an opportunity for him to take revenge on the ones that supposedly had taken Entrapta from him and perhaps see her again in the battlefield. It's only in the end of the season that he learns from Double Trouble that Entrapta never betrayed him and, to add insult to injury, she was sent by Catra at Beast Island! Knowing how lethal the place is, Hordak realizes Entrapta must be dead at this point ( She has survived, having been rescued by Adora, Swift Wind and Bow), destroys his laborathory in a fit of rage and cries of grief, probably for the first time.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Played for Laughs in the episode "A Day Without Tears". SpongeBob accepts a bet from Squidward that he'll go one day without crying after discovering that he cries quite frequently. When it gets close to midnight, SpongeBob struggles to contain his tears, especially when Squidward tells him a sad story. Fortunately, SpongeBob makes it to midnight thanks to his body absorbing the tears within. Unfortunately, however, when he does cry, SpongeBob causes a flash flood that engulfs all of Bikini Bottom.
  • Steven Universe: Future: In the Grand Finale episode "The Future", Steven tries to evoke an emotional response from the Gems when he's about the leave Beach City. Though he succeeds with the B Team at Little Homeworld, the main Crystal Gems seem perfectly fine. Finally, just as he's about to leave at dawn, Steven cracks and drives back to ask the Gems why they aren't sad that he's leaving. The Gems abruptly burst into tears, claiming that they were afraid their sadness would hold him back.
  • Wakfu: Happens at least twice to Ogrest. In the special "The Legend of Ogrest", it's explained that due to his tears having the ability to multiply exponentially, Ogrest had to keep from crying so much. Besides one instance when he teared up as a baby, he cries during a Break the Cutie moment when he sees his adoptive father Otomai and his new friend battling each other. Along with unleashing a literal flood of tears, Ogrest wails very loudly. After the events of the special, Ogrest collects the six Dofus for his crush Dathura. However, she only wants the Dofus and not him, leading to him throwing her into an abyss. After he is abandoned by Otomai, Ogrest runs to Mount Zinit and cries in heartbreak. His many tears then flood the entire world until it becomes what it is in present day.


Video Example(s):


Zero to One

After an emotional pep-talk with Riko, most of Aqours arrive to express their feelings towards Chika and how they felt no regret about performing. This is enough to get Chika to cry harder, learning how much her friends are willing to perform with her and how much they value each other's companionship, before promising to get their overall votes up from at least zero to one.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / CatharticCrying

Media sources: